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IBM Granted "Paper-or-Plastic?" Patent

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the not-the-onion dept.

Patents 517

theodp writes "On Tuesday, IBM was granted US Patent No. 7,407,089 for storing a preference for paper or plastic grocery bags on customer cards and displaying a picture of said preference after a card is scanned. The invention, Big Blue explains, eliminates the 'unnecessary inconvenience for both the customer and the cashier' that results when 'Paper or Plastic?' must be asked. The patent claims also cover affixing a cute sticker of a paper or plastic bag to a customer card to indicate packaging preferences. So does this pass the 'significant technical content' test, IBM'ers?"

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This won't have an effect in Belgium (5, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | about 6 years ago | (#24492685)

We have no bags at the supermarkets anymore, unless you buy them. So almost everybody has bags or boxes that will last much longer.

Environment and such, ya know. Other countries do the same, I believe.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (4, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | about 6 years ago | (#24492773)

Would you like to kill a tree or a turtle?

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 6 years ago | (#24492887)

Would you like to kill a tree or a turtle?

If I can chop down a tree so it lands on a turtle can I have both?

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (4, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | about 6 years ago | (#24492955)

I'd rather just have turtle soup in a paper cup.

With chives.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (0, Offtopic)

evwah (954864) | about 6 years ago | (#24492855)

thats a good point but could you have made it without swearing in your subject line? how rude!

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (0)

repvik (96666) | about 6 years ago | (#24493259)

Mod parent up for semi-obscure reference ;)

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (-1, Troll)

evwah (954864) | about 6 years ago | (#24493277)

lol it should hardly be obscure on slashdot!!!
yet someone modded me down. sigh... must be a mac fan.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492859)

You are Belgian. The patriot act does not directly apply to you. Nobody will come knocking on your door

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (4, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 6 years ago | (#24492921)

We have no bags at the supermarkets anymore, unless you buy them.

In Seattle Washington, our City Counsel just voted a 20 cent per bag (paper or plastic) tax. Indeed, the city also outlawed the sale of water in plastic single-use bottles in or on all city owned property. I believe that more and more municipalities are headed this direction.

But it's still an asinine patent that is a perfect example of one of the many problems with our patent system.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (4, Interesting)

aussie_a (778472) | about 6 years ago | (#24493069)

In Australia we have bags that are bought in stores as well as plastic bags, giving people the choice on whether or not they're environmentally conscious.

However I saw a news report about research (the research's validity I know nothing about, so it could be complete hogwash) showing that the bags that are sold and used in preference to the plastic bags aren't biodegradable or recyclable (although they are reusable of course). In comparison there are biodegradable plastic bags which will degrade within 6 months of being buried in a dump.

I think the biodegradable plastic bags sound like the better choice and much more preferable then a 20 cent tax per bag (although it might end up costing more then 20 cents per bag, at least its actually doing something rather then just punishing people). Although I don't know if supermarkets (in either Australia or America) use the bio-degradable ones, or if they use the traditional plastic bags.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (4, Insightful)

jacquesm (154384) | about 6 years ago | (#24493083)

the really amazing thing here is that those bags seem to know where they are, so they don't decompose when they're not buried in a dump!

How about - ATM language pref (1)

spineboy (22918) | about 6 years ago | (#24493239)

I become tired of having to tell my bank card that I speak English. Why not have a bit on the card so that we don't have to repeat entering this info.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (5, Interesting)

mrboyd (1211932) | about 6 years ago | (#24493073)

I used to reuse the plastic bag as trash bag like everyone else. Now I have to buy my grocery bag almost everytime I go shopping and buy additional trash bags which seems to be made of thicker plastic than the shopping bags I had before.

Carbon neutrality or disguised corporate greed? You choose.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493185)

All your bags are belong to us!

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (3, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | about 6 years ago | (#24493269)

Same thing in the Republic of Ireland. Used to be that you'd grab 3 or 4 bags to do the shopping. These days you take a reusable bags or a box with you and stick everything in that. If you forget your bags you have to pay for disposables. I don't have the figures to hand but the scheme has apparantly cut bag consumption by 90% which is close to a billion bags a year. I can't say its a major burden either as you soon adapt and remember to save up your bags and bring them with you.

A billion bags in a country the size of Ireland. The US has 75 times the population meaning it could save 75 billion bags a year.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (5, Insightful)

2Bits (167227) | about 6 years ago | (#24493289)

China has just implemented this policy as well, you must pay 0.2 RMB if you want a plastic bag. Stores which still give plastic bags for free will be fined, or worse, shut down.

All in the name of environment.

The cost saved has never been passed to customers. Worse yet, stores have been taking in even more profits, selling at amazing high price all kinds of shopping bags.

The cost is totally transfered to customers. There are other side affects too, as a result. People used to put their garbage in those plastic bags, tied them up before throwing them in the common garbage bin. Now, they just dump the garbage directly in, bringing flies and other insects, and having very stinky neighborhood.

We used to use those as garbage bags as well, and as we are only two, we don't have much garbage. The smallish grocery store bags are just perfect for daily garbage. Now we have to buy those larger black bags, which we can't fill in one day. Since we don't like stinky overnight garbage in house, we throw away a half empty bag, which is a waste. So, for our family of two, this policy does not seem to do any good to environment. Unless we are willing to keep garbage overnight, of course.

The so-called experts on the panel who decided this policy (in closed door, as all other policies in China) admitted they didn't consider any of the social and cost issues before they passed it. As if this is new to any one.

Re:This won't have an effect in Belgium (1)

koolfy (1213316) | about 6 years ago | (#24493303)

(oh my god, I'm not the only Belgian here in /. ? Am I less marginal than I thought ?)

it's like avoiding you to request the less "bad guy for environment" fuel when everybody uses hydrogen.

anyway, what's that society where the minimal effort is still too much of an "energy waste" !? Come on people, it's fuel energy we save, no ours !
Be brave : ask your paper bag yourself, don't use cookies to logon to /., build your system yourself... no, wait, create your own system by your own !

debit or credit (5, Insightful)

laktech (998064) | about 6 years ago | (#24492695)

How about we also solve the "debit or credit" problem I have to deal with each time I visit the mini-mart?

Re:debit or credit (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 6 years ago | (#24492765)

Tattoo 'credit' on your right palm, and 'debit' on your left. And you can work around IBM's patent by tattooing your preference for paper or plastic on your forehead!

Or put it on a name tag and slap it on your shirt.

Re:debit or credit (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 6 years ago | (#24492901)

And you can work around IBM's patent by tattooing your preference for paper or plastic on your forehead!

No they'll still have you "A computational device indicating preference". You'll have to pay royalties or forfeit your head.

Re:debit or credit (4, Funny)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | about 6 years ago | (#24492803)

So you show the cashier a card to show them which card you prefer to show them?

Huh?

Re:debit or credit (5, Funny)

BerkeleyDude (827776) | about 6 years ago | (#24492805)

How about we also solve the "debit or credit" problem I have to deal with each time I visit the mini-mart?

Let me guess: I'll have to put a "credit" sticker on my credit cards, and a "debit" one on my debit cards.
If only there was a way to store this bit of data electronically, and somehow attach it to the card itself...

Re:debit or credit (3, Interesting)

IBBoard (1128019) | about 6 years ago | (#24492929)

There's a difference? In the UK we just insert the card and type our PIN. Before that we handed over our card, signed the receipt and watched as the cashier didn't compare signatures. No-one seems to care between credit and debit because Visa do both and don't make too much differentiation.

Re:debit or credit (2, Informative)

Scannerman (1136265) | about 6 years ago | (#24493047)

This is obviously confusing some people.

in the UK we have one card from debit(Maestro) , one for credit (M/c, visa etc)

Other countries (I've found it in Australia) appear to be able to access several accounts from one card

Re:debit or credit (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | about 6 years ago | (#24493065)

A credit card grants credit, a debit card directly registers to your bank account. If you don't say the store will prefer to use the debit system because its more security for them.

You're the one paying for a credit card though, so you may as well use it.

Re:debit or credit (4, Informative)

jacquesm (154384) | about 6 years ago | (#24493091)

the reason the merchant prefers debit is because it is a fixed per payment charge for them, but credit card payments are a fraction of the amount charged.

Re:debit or credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493147)

Credit cards also cost you more, as you have to pay interest on the credit.

Re:debit or credit (1)

Swizec (978239) | about 6 years ago | (#24493299)

Can't they tell which you chose simply by looking at the plastic card you shove in their face when they request payment? o.O

Must say I've never been asked whether I'm about to use debit or credit, seems like a stupid question to ask, both cards go in the same machine afterall.

Inconvenient Identification (5, Insightful)

Nymz (905908) | about 6 years ago | (#24492697)

Answering paper or plastic isn't as inconvenient as having to carry around an identification card for every store I shop at. Why don't they just combine all the cards into a single ID. Yeah, and while they're at it, pulling that one card out of my pocket sounds inconvenient too, so why not just permanently affix it to my right hand or forehead. I'm so lucky that everyone wants to help me. /sarcasm off

Re:Inconvenient Identification - A Solution! (0)

ciphersort (1333553) | about 6 years ago | (#24492833)

Open up a copy of your local phone book in private (so there is no access recorded) and memorize a few phone numbers attached to homes in affluent neighborhoods to recite in place of presenting the offensive tracking cards.

Re:Inconvenient Identification (1)

fermion (181285) | about 6 years ago | (#24492959)

It sounds to me like they add this to a customer affinity card. I, personally, agree with you. I have no tolerance for carrying around these affinity cards, and do not shop at any store that relies heavily on such cards. I consider a waste of my time to either find the card or state that I do not have one. In fact, now that I think about it, I am shopping less at stores that demand I apply for a credit card every time I check out.

OTOH, a large portion of the population do go for affinity cards. They think that they are getting a good deal on two litres of coke that is marked down from $3 when they present their cards, and this is the type of establishment that the patent is likely targeting. If one is going to take the time to keep track of an affinity card so the store will charge what other stores charge normally, then this automatic choice of bags is an added benefit of this.

The patent does sound obvious, but if IBM is going to use it in conjunction with current services, it will be a way for them to differentiate from the competition.

Re:Inconvenient Identification (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493049)

Someone file for a patent related to the datamining of the purchasing habits of politicians. Of course I am sure some escort services can show prior art.

Re:Inconvenient Identification (1)

mea_culpa (145339) | about 6 years ago | (#24492983)

I use Jenny's phone number [wikipedia.org] as most places will allow you to key in a phone number as a substitute. It is especially fun at Safeway as their cashiers are required to say your name when telling you to have a good day. Some area codes are funnier than others. I think when I used a Los Angeles one my name was Mr. Fuchinger and I had to help the cashier on the pronunciation.
Of course this only works when you pay cash as your credit card will override the name.

Back on topic though. WTF? Who gives any card to the cashier before putting their groceries on the conveyor belt? I know of Sam's/Costco that needs a card first but they use boxes.
Honestly I can't remember ever being asked if I wanted paper or plastic at any store.

Re:Inconvenient Identification (1)

aussie_a (778472) | about 6 years ago | (#24493095)

If its such a stupid idea I guess you don't care about the idea being patented.

The answer. (4, Funny)

zapatero (68511) | about 6 years ago | (#24492717)

Q: does this pass the 'significant technical content' test?

First the long answer: Nope.
Now the short answer: No.

Re:The answer. (2)

NosTROLLdamus (979044) | about 6 years ago | (#24492771)

Zen Answer: Mu

Re:The answer. (1)

Bovius (1243040) | about 6 years ago | (#24492865)

Hey, maybe I can file a derivative work patent that allows for a third option, "plastic, except for on the occasions that I need a paper bag for something."

Re:The answer. (1)

Justabit (651314) | about 6 years ago | (#24493175)

This reminds me of that great comedy sequence where the waiter is asking a pair of customers at a cafe what they want to have. The first person says "A coffee please" to which the waiter asks what kind. The customer says a flat white, so the waiter asks what type of bean, roasted steamed Nicaraguan, fair trade, strong weak, 1 sugar , sweetener etc back and forth so that each time a finer point of detail was obtained. The milk was funny because it got to 'up hill or down dale?, Sunny side or shadded side? Black cow or white cow? Daisy or Buttercup?" Finally it came time for the waiter to ask what the other customer would like to which he said "A glass of tap water, no ice but cold in a tall clean clear glass, no straw or anything else in the glass with it" to which the waiter said "..and to eat sir?"

All of which brings me to a patent for storing customers preferences for every thing in sequentially tiered results down to the minutest detail. The customer walks into store and his RFID says on it somewhere to the stores reader 'customer likes ambient temp 20 - 23 degrees' so store air con turns up automatically. 'customer prefers female store employee over male' 'customer prefers concise advise over browsing' 'customer prefers no blipverts from advpanels'

Why stop at 1 tier of info for bag preference? When a good version of the biobag (biodegradable plastic bag) comes out will they make it a 3 way question with a new cute sticker?

meanwhile abroad... (5, Insightful)

spectrokid (660550) | about 6 years ago | (#24492721)

In Denmark, where "no-nonsense" is a lifestyle, you pay +/- 1$ for each bag you want. (Makes you think twice about double-bagging!). In Belgium, you buy a reusable bag from the store. If it wears out or tears, you can trade it in for free. In the US, you guys are patenting your dependency on foreign oil.

Re:meanwhile abroad... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492751)

Man, I'd stock up on the -$1 bags!

Re:meanwhile abroad... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492787)

Yeah I would have modded this up but I modded the parent

Re:meanwhile abroad... (1)

ddvlad (862846) | about 6 years ago | (#24492891)

Yeah I would have modded this up but I modded the parent

And by posting in this thread you have made that invalid as well: modding + posting afterwards == 0.

Sure, dude, sure... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492937)

I take it you do not work in computer security, right?

Re:meanwhile abroad... (1, Funny)

letxa2000 (215841) | about 6 years ago | (#24492755)

Yeah, but we can afford it now that Obama has reduced American oil consumption by enlightening us all to the fact that we should check the air pressure in the tires of our vehicles for maximum efficiency. Screw Chavez, we don't need his oil anymore! We have Obama and his tire pressure gauges! We are saved! :)

Re:meanwhile abroad... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492861)

I'm not terribly fond of Obama and Obamamania myself but keeping your tires properly inflated is good for your gas mileage. A lot of folks can't be bothered to spend the couple of moments it takes to check their tire pressure once or even twice a month. They pay for that by slightly lower gas mileage.

And just to remain somewhat on topic:

Primary Examiner: Lee; Michael G.
Assistant Examiner: Savusdiphol; Paultep

^^^^ These two guys are complete and utter morons. I bet they don't check their tire pressure regularly either and I know they aren't ever going to produce anything to rival e=mc^2.

Re:meanwhile abroad... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492999)

Yeah, but we can afford it now that Obama has reduced American oil consumption by enlightening us all to the fact that we should check the air pressure in the tires of our vehicles for maximum efficiency. Screw Chavez, we don't need his oil anymore! We have Obama and his tire pressure gauges! We are saved! :)

It may sound funny but the truth is he's absolutely right. The whole point wasn't about tire pressure that's pro oil Republicans making fun of "conserving" energy like only hyppies and lefties conserve energy. The truth is you can save 3% by keeping tires properly inflated and drilling in the arctic reserve will add 1% to our oil in 20 years. The fastest easiest way to add more oil to the market is to cut back on usage. Absolute fact. Even the oil companies admit they can't get the new oil to market in less than five to ten years. This is about diverting attention from the real issue and that's the oil companies are trying to gain control of all the oil rights on government land and they want to right to drill anywhere no matter how sensitive. It's manipulative and most of the US is falling for it. Might want to check your facts before you laugh. Since you're on Slashdot I'm guessing you know how to use Google. Do a search and see what the truth is not what the oil company stooges are feeding you.

Re:meanwhile abroad... (0)

freedom_india (780002) | about 6 years ago | (#24493025)

For the love of God i din't know why you were modded as Troll even though you were right.
Guess the anti-neocon movement that is slashdot fears any attempt at sarcasm is criticism of their Holy Leader.

Re:meanwhile abroad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493233)

It's actually closer to 50 cents in Denmark, the dollar isn't that low yet.

Re:meanwhile abroad... (1)

jlar (584848) | about 6 years ago | (#24493295)

$1 per bag? It is closer to $0.5 in the shops I buy my groceries in.

"In the US, you guys are patenting your dependency on foreign oil."

70% of plastic bags are made using a by product of natural gas. The remaining 30% are made from naphtha (a by product in the distillation process of petroleum). I don't think that plastic bags are the main concern in relations to foreign oil dependency. Environmental concerns on the other hand are probably important.

Or you could ban them for the happiness of your nation;-)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/4782636.stm [bbc.co.uk]

(see image 6)

And what if (1)

phalse phace (454635) | about 6 years ago | (#24492725)

I don't have a customer card? Do I get neither?

Re:And what if (1)

foobsr (693224) | about 6 years ago | (#24493253)

I don't have a customer card? Do I get neither?

Be lucky if you get food. More seriously, I suspect that in a time not too distant you will have to have a card (security, terrorism, ease of processing, yadda ...) for each and every transaction you make. A little further on, this will be an implanted device, still later, it will be wired (interfaced) to your neural system.

Not a new idea [wikipedia.org] , though.

CC.

Capt. Obv (1)

blool (798681) | about 6 years ago | (#24492729)

So does this pass the 'significant technical content' test, IBM'ers?"

no /discussion

preferences vary (1)

Bob-o-Matic! (620698) | about 6 years ago | (#24492739)

I change my preference based on whether I need more plastic bags for small trash bins. Sometimes it is nice to have a paper bag which generally takes a regular shape in the trunk for efficient loading. For small loads plastic is great with the hooks in the lid of the trunk.

Generally we bring our own bags (but sometimes they're in the other car). It is nice that some places give a discount. Aldi's charges for bags you don't bring, Beuhler's gives a discount for each bag you bring. However, Marc's in NE Ohio has the flimsiest bags in the world. Prices are fine, but you must BYOBags.

Posting late, sleepy, babbling, etc. sorry.

Actually Yes. (1, Insightful)

freedom_india (780002) | about 6 years ago | (#24492745)

While in reality it may seem too simple and even stupid for some, the fact that none of us thought of it before and had implemented it shows it as unique.
The process itself is simple: Affix a sticker (much like any other sticker), and next time the cashier needs to only scan it instead of asking.
Morally objectionable: I don't think so. Not commonly used. Although a bit dumb.
Legally Valid: Yes.

Re:Actually Yes. (2, Insightful)

risinganger (586395) | about 6 years ago | (#24492885)

Ok, I will admit I don't know exactly the criteria for innovative applications in the US, but if in reality it is remarkably simple to many and even stupid to some then it doesn't deserve a patent.

My guess as to why somebody hasn't thought of this before? because I expect my cashier to be capable of asking a simple question and I don't see that it saves valuable time. IBM would be better off coming up with a more efficient way of reducing queues than this kind of crap.

Story after story here on /. we've discussed the US patent system, so of course I'm going to say nothing new as it's all been said before. The simple fact is that as long as any country has a system that allows this kind of rubbish through is going to suffer from a lack on innovation. How can a company get anything done when it's being sued because somebody has been granted a patent for the blindingly obvious or the completely pointless. The patent is stupid and will do nothing but waste peoples time and stifle change.

It should not be about the method (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492919)

The idea is not new or innovative. It is likely that there is prior art about capturing of customer preferences on bagging. A simple example is a sticker on the card that indicates their preference. I do not think that the method (using computers, databases, etc) is innovative when the big picture concept is "capture a customers preferences on bagging choice". In general, most any idea that is already well-developed without computers can be redefined as a
"new" method using a computer. I don't think the use of a computer to implement common concepts is a reasonable basis for a patent.

OK Show me a patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493101)

Show me a patent that covers the use of a soft paper or other material square less than 15cm on a side to cover the nose while you blow.

No?

Now I'll patent "blowing your nose".

Show me a patent for putting a sign up saying "Open" or "Closed" on a business entrance door.

Show me a patent for putting your current overdraft limit on (not your statement) your debit card.

Show me a patent on putting "plastic" or "paper" on a plastic or paper bag.

Show me a patent for any old shit, and then tell me that this means it's innovative.

This was actually granted??? (2, Insightful)

risinganger (586395) | about 6 years ago | (#24492775)

Seriously, does the patent office in the US actually read these applications at all anymore?

I can't decide who I think less of, the person that thought to file this or the person that actually granted it...

So what is the invention??? (5, Interesting)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 6 years ago | (#24492781)

Databases have been known for a few years now. Customer identification cards as well. So now you can patent specific pieces of information when tied to the identification?

Maybe I'm stupid but it seems to me that the system might be in need revision. Perhaps IBM was trying to make a point?

yeah I HATE that (1)

evwah (954864) | about 6 years ago | (#24492813)

I HATE that nasty inconvenience of talking to other people. which is why I'm on slashdot at 12am.

I never really hear what is wrong with plastic... (4, Interesting)

arse maker (1058608) | about 6 years ago | (#24492817)

For all the anti plastic bag talk, I've never really heard any reasons WHY they are so bad. The common one you get from people is either they get into the water and damager wild life, or they don't bio-degrade.

If its damage, then if you take care to dispose, how is it an issue?

If its bio-degrade, I dont get that either. They arent the largest things around. Is it a significant issue? Things barely degrade in landfills anyhow, they are anaerobic.

Maybe these days its oil based.. which maybe somehow slightly valid.. but its nothing compared to petrol. Also, anti-plastic has been around so long it cant be that. So maybe someone can inform me!

While there is probably a good answer(s) ill have shot back at me, I'm still going to be annoyed that its not well conveyed onto consumers WHY this is bad. I feel too much like I'm in 1984 if I just have to know things are bad because everyone says so. Feels like its some minor issue that gets so much press yet if everyone stopped using them it wouldn't help anything at all.. producing huge amounts of paper bags would be a nightmare and is everyone using reusable going to save us all? Most people seem to slack off once they feel they are "doing their bit" by not using plastic bags.. even if they don't know anything about the issues involved.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (5, Insightful)

SilicaiMan (856076) | about 6 years ago | (#24492931)

The common one you get from people is either they get into the water and damager wild life, or they don't bio-degrade.

correct.

If its damage, then if you take care to dispose, how is it an issue?

if they're not biodegradable, then how do you dispose of the millions of bags that are thrown in the trash every day? where do you put them?

If its bio-degrade, I dont get that either. They arent the largest things around. Is it a significant issue?

you under-estimate the number of plastic bags thrown away each day. They aren't only used in supermarkets for your groceries. Practically every store uses them (clothing, electronics, books, everything). There is also plastic packaging. Plastic bags ARE a HUGE problem.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492961)

Why arent they made bio-degradable then? Duh.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | about 6 years ago | (#24493209)

Because they're more expensive. Plus they are only bio-degradable in relative terms (It can still take many years), and the materials they degrade into can also be harmful to the environment.
And that's assuming they are produced in an environmentally sound way. That doesn't have to be the case.
They're definatly not the best solution to the problem of plastic bags.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493265)

Burn them and use the energy for heating, like we do in Europe.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (3, Interesting)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | about 6 years ago | (#24492967)

If its damage, then if you take care to dispose, how is it an issue?

Because of their size & weight, plastic bags escape normal disposal options easily. Look around you. Most of the trash I see on the streets is plastic bags.

You probably use thousands of plastic bags every year. Are you so confident of your disposal methods that none of them entered a waterway?

if its bio-degrade, I dont get that either. They arent the largest things around. Is it a significant issue?

1) Paper bags recycle more readily than plastic.
2) You could just reuse a sturdy bag and that way, not contribute to landfill with the containers you use to take home your shopping at all.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (1)

Maelwryth (982896) | about 6 years ago | (#24493139)

Try this [youtube.com] .

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (2, Insightful)

kwikrick (755625) | about 6 years ago | (#24493153)

Throw-away products, plastic or paper bags, disposable cameras, packaging materials, whatever, are wasteful, in principle. It costs energy to produce them and to dispose of them. If a long lasting alternative is available, it is almost always better. Lasting products can often be fixed if they are broken, and if you don't need them anymore, you can give them away or sell them.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (0, Flamebait)

jeroen94704 (542819) | about 6 years ago | (#24493159)

>I'm still going to be annoyed that its not well
>conveyed onto consumers WHY this is bad.

In general, my position in this regard is that if you can't be bothered stay informed about a particular subject, you should just shut up and do as you're told. That isn't intended as a judgment, really! There are plenty of subjects on which I can't be bothered to stay informed, simply because there are only a wee 24 hours in the day. But I object to the argument that "consumers" should be able to kick back and relax while the government spoon-feeds them everything they need to know. THAT is what 1984 warned against.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (0, Troll)

syousef (465911) | about 6 years ago | (#24493169)

This isn't 1984. This is commercialism at its worst. They can charge you $1 for the "green" "enviro" bags which may be green in colour but are not good for the environment. It's called a scam. They had a problem: People were claiming that the use of plastic bags was a significant contributor to the environment (and I'm not saying this claim isn't true). They solved it creatively. Charge people for bags that are less environmentally friendly and don't bio-degrade, claim that they are enviro-friendly and paint anyone who questions it as the devil, then go back to the government and claim you're doing your part. Hell even try to claim concession for producing the new bags. I've even had more than one girl at the checkout be rude to for daring not to come with or buy enviro bags. She literally said "Doing your bit for the environment I see". I told her they weren't but didn't argue much. What I felt like saying was "get back to your minimum wage job you stupid drone and stop lecturing me on the environment".

Here in Australia you can still get the pastic bags in most places, but they are usually so thin they break. I bought a pair of 100 DVD spindles from Officeworks (similar to OfficeMax) about a week ago. I got across 2 city streets before they split. I went back and exchanged those spindles. I often come home with dogfood and/or softdrink where the checkout person has loaded over 4 kilos into one flimsy thin bag. Unsuprisingly they constantly break. I want to know how the occupational health and safety nazis can encourage the use of inadequate bags like this. These bags are accidents waiting to happen. I've had things fall on my foot on at least a couple of occassions. I've had cans of dog food fall and roll into the parking lot just moving these bags from the trolley to the car.

There's no rhyme or reason to it anymore. Once the environment card is played, all common sense and all actual logic goes out the fucking window.

Re:I never really hear what is wrong with plastic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493187)

Over the lifecycle of the bag, be it paper or plastic, which does more damage to the environment?

How many chemicals and nasty pollutants are released into the atmosphere to create a paper bag? And what about if it is made from recycled paper? The commercial processes involved are nothing like the stuff you play around with at school.

What if, all things considered, the plastic bag was better or that they could be manufactured in such a way to be better for the environment than paper bags?

At least woven bags are reusable - but you've still got to consider what goes into making that bag (dyes, cleaning the fabric, is the fabric 100% organic (100% cotton/wool) or is it only part organic (i.e. made from polyester, etc)? And what does it do to the environment to make that?

Not so simple a question!

Plastic: A serial killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493223)

The radio program "Background Briefing" had a story titled "Plastic: A Serial Killer". You can find the transcript
at:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s809783.htm [abc.net.au]

One excerpt from the program:

"Whales are amongst the 100,000 marine mammals estimated by the US Coast Guard to be killed by plastic each year. For birds, the guesstimate is a million.

--karma

Paper or plastic? (1)

nebaz (453974) | about 6 years ago | (#24492823)

Both. A sticker on a card is paper on plastic. Cool.

Not an invention (2, Insightful)

enoz (1181117) | about 6 years ago | (#24492845)

I believe prior art exists for the invention of storing and retrieving user preferences.

Can I file a patent (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492857)

for a "cute" scratch and sniff paper-or-plastic sticker? Surely, people would prefer that. Can we also just put the cashiers in the basement with the lights out? It would save on energy costs and cut down on unnecessary communication such as momentary linguistic camaraderie/empathy/kindness between fellow human beings (which is uncalled for). Why force the cashier to speak? Surely, this is not required and only slows down productivity. We could simply have robots move the carts down to the basement (or get Bubbles, he'll need some remedial training, of course). Then dependent on whether the patented "cute" card sticker smell is Strawberries or Bananas the bags will return to ground-level to see the light of day, magically appearing in plastic or paper, the eager consumer smiling in the sunlight and glad to be rid of the burdensome trouble of other human beings. Once again patents to the rescue. *phew* That was a close one.

"unnecessary"? I'll say!

Sincerely,
AC

Cute Sticker (1)

iamapizza (1312801) | about 6 years ago | (#24492873)

That sticker isn't very cute at all. It looks like a crude drawing of a cyclopean Transformer frowning in disapproval... where are the Pokemons and Sailor Moons?

Ale or Lager (1)

thetsguy (1211146) | about 6 years ago | (#24492875)

Hope I don't have to go in a bar with a sticker now...

Considering All The Layoffs At IBM ... (1)

strelitsa (724743) | about 6 years ago | (#24492895)

Its probably a good thing that IBM has patented the "paper or plastic?" meme. Considering how many of their ex-employees are going to need to learn those words, IBM should also patent "You want fries with that?" and "May I take your order?" as well. Might as well cover all the bases.

Re:Considering All The Layoffs At IBM ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493263)

It's "May I take your order, please?", you rude motherfucker.

Last weeks news... (1)

Centurix (249778) | about 6 years ago | (#24492903)

On Tuesday, Slashdot was granted US Patent No. 7,407,090 for storing a preference for rubber or latex on user ID's and displaying a picture of said preference after their login is scanned. The invention, Big Green explains, eliminates the 'unnecessary inconvenience for both the customer and Cowboy Neal' that results when 'Rubber or Latex?' must be asked. The patent claims also cover affixing a cute sticker of a rubber or latex costume to a users login ID to indicate "packaging" preferences...

Hang on, are people missing the point? (3, Interesting)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 6 years ago | (#24492943)

IBM have been patenting really really stupidly simple and obvious inventions for quite a while now. It seems that every month /. reports on an IBMer being granted a patent on something like stickers on credit cards, or on/off switches, or a great new way of peeling an orange.

Here's what I think: you've got IBM, a very wealthy company with a very strong brand and a good reputation, and a lot of clever people. Why not solicit crazy-but-patentable ideas from IBMers, drop the small (to IBM) amount of cash on patenting it, and then have a portfolio of crazy stuff. Then when you run into problems with other patents you can pull out a patent on putting a sticker on a bank card and say "Well, you let that through..."

I reckon they're gearing up to give the US patent system an almighty rattling.

Re:Hang on, are people missing the point? (1)

speedingant (1121329) | about 6 years ago | (#24493257)

*Patent granted* In the distance, someone at IBM chuckles....

What about... (1)

UnCivil Liberty (786163) | about 6 years ago | (#24492945)

Paper IN plastic? I'm going to beat big blue to the punch, patent pending.

Care to explain to a German? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24492949)

1. Why don't you just pick the type of bag you want yourself?
2. Aren't the bags in front of the checkout in the US?
3. If not, where are the bags then? Has the cashier them stashed in a secret safe under his seat?
4. What is inconvinient about answering a question?
5. Don't you have reuseable fabric bags? That's the most common around here.

Re:Care to explain to a German? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24493235)

1. Why don't you just pick the type of bag you want yourself?
2. Aren't the bags in front of the checkout in the US?
3. If not, where are the bags then? Has the cashier them stashed in a secret safe under his seat?
4. What is inconvinient about answering a question?
5. Don't you have reuseable fabric bags? That's the most common around here.

1/2/3) Because every place around me keep the bags by the cashier, with the conveyor belt between me and the bags. The Cashier scans the item and places it in a bag. When the bag is full [s]he puts it either in the cart or behind him/her on a table of sorts.

5) You say 'here' like anyone but you knows where that is! Some places do have these bags (for a price), but most people don't use them. I do (I got in the habit of it in Denmark).

We are geniuses (1)

Kim0 (106623) | about 6 years ago | (#24492991)

To us, this is terribly obvious,
but to the patent examiners, and their cohorts,
this is not obvious, because if it were, it would not be patented, since it is not legal to patent obvious stuff.

This means that we are far smarter than patent examiners, lawyers, judges, etc.

So, the reason we work in depressing distracting places instead of being rich and happy due to us being geniuses, must be that the stupids are attacking us, suppressing us, and generally flocking together in order to harm us, steal from us, and generally oppress us.

But then again, another explanation might be that the patent system and similar is insane.

Kim0

way to pick the low-hanging fruit IBM (1)

SendBot (29932) | about 6 years ago | (#24492997)

Here's a scenario I often run into:

I'm checking out at the store, and put my reusable bag in front of my items or say, "hi I brought a bag with me today"

Often, the cashier will fail to break out of repetitive-task-robot mode and automatically start loading the plastic bag.

Other times, they'll put things in the bag so stupidly that they'll then proceed to load up items in a plastic bag that would have fit just fine in the cloth bag.

Or they'll put bagged items in a bag. I've had the following things put into a bag by themselves:
- a bag of rice
- a loaf of bread, already in its own bag
- a plastic gallon jug, which is already easier to carry by its own handle.
- a pizza in a cardboard box, which is much less wieldy in a plastic bag than on its own.

And then there's the countless times I request NO bag, at which point they look at me all puzzled, almost offended.

If IBM could address all the problems I've just described, then maybe that would actually be patent-worthy.

What about those for whom it depends... (3, Interesting)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 6 years ago | (#24493027)

Back when I was in the States (the only place where they asked), I took
  • plastic when I had a very small amount of stuff (1 plastic bag)
  • paper when I had somewhat more (1 paper bag, which tend to be larger than plastic)
  • plastic again when I had very much stuff (plastic bags have a more convenient handle, so you can carry more than one, whereas with paper this would be awkward).

Can the IBM system store such a complex decision process?

Hardly an invention (1)

squoozer (730327) | about 6 years ago | (#24493097)

When I started replying I was going to have the usual rant about this being a stupidly tiny "invention" or probably not even an invention at all as it's so simple. I was going to compare it to the invention of the steam engine or the television or some other complex device but it occured to me that I couldn't think of a single complex device that was a single invention.

I think every single complex device that we use is built up of several (perhaps hundreds or even thousands) of tiny increments each one of which was an invention. I'm sure some of those increments people looked at and said "that's obvious" and some required a little more imagination.

While I wouldn't try to defend this patent as being right, I firmly believe this shouldn't have been allowed, I think we are in danger of over correcting the current stupidity of the patent system unless we are careful in how we draw up new guidelines.

Why not? (2, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | about 6 years ago | (#24493099)

With our crazy patent system, if you're as big as IBM is, the smart thing to do is to patent anything and everything you do. Even if you don't intend to enforce the patent, it prevents someone else from patenting the same thing and suing you. Given court costs to defend against a patent suit and the multi-million dollar awards if you lose, $1500 for a patent application seems like really cheap insurance.

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | about 6 years ago | (#24493109)

Will somebody *PLEASE* publicly humiliate the shitwit patent examiners that approved this garbage?

Lately, I've been giving serious thought to starting a website just to put these asshats up for the public humiliation and shaming that they deserve!

The shitwits responsible:

Primary Examiner: Lee; Michael G.
Assistant Examiner: Savusdiphol; Paultep

Somebody, PLEASE, start giving these half-assed clerks the humilitation they so deserve!

Heh (1)

Ecyrd (51952) | about 6 years ago | (#24493137)

Originally I thought that when they asked "paper or plastic" they wanted to know if I wanted to pay with paper notes or a plastic credit card. And then I was confused in Australia because their notes *are* made of plastic.

Life gets so much more interesting when English is not your native language :-)

hooray science (1)

Pvt. Cthulhu (990218) | about 6 years ago | (#24493149)

by shortening check-out line conversations almost down to nothing, i can now shop for groceries without fear of making prolonged social interactions.

Patent on stupid patent (1)

mrboyd (1211932) | about 6 years ago | (#24493157)

Did anyone try to patent the act of patenting something stupid?

Abstract: A system to provide a set of exclusive rights, hereafter referred as rights, granted by a state, hereafter referred as state, to an INVENTOR, hereafter referred as a retard, or his assignee, hereafter referred as an assignee, for a fixed period of time, hereafter referred as time, in exchange for a disclosure, hereafter referred as disclosure, of something, hereafter referred as a nothing, completely useless that makes people comment on how absurd it is when they hear about it in the PAST, PRESENT or FUTUR, with or without the help of PAST, PRESENT, NOT YET CONCEIVED, or PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE Technology or PAST PRESENT OR FUTURE LANGUAGE and COMMUNICATION DEVICE NOT LIMITED TO HUMAN FORM. USING WORD included in, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, the Merriam and Webster between page 0 and 9999 in PAST, PRESENT AND ALL FUTUR EDITION.

Too many prior arts I guess.

Annoying communications (1)

LoadWB (592248) | about 6 years ago | (#24493205)

'unnecessary inconvenience for both the customer and the cashier'

Because the last thing we should be doing is communicating with each other.

Bigger wallet needed... (1)

stoofa (524247) | about 6 years ago | (#24493219)

"Yes I could just 'inconveniently' say 'paper' to you, but dammit I have a card to do that now... it's in here somewhere... nope, that's my 'dash of milk and two sugars please' card... Ah, here... oh no, that's my small 'good morning' sign that I can hold up to friends and colleagues... there's my 'Is this available in plaid?' card... damn, I think I left it at home with my 'leave the elephant on the trampoline for 5 more minutes and then let the giraffe have a go' card.

Patents are the Soviet chandaliers of innovation (2, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | about 6 years ago | (#24493227)

All this money that is being spent pursuing retarded patents like this is classified as R&D spending. It is seen as successful R&D spending because it produces patents (a handy metric for innovation) and money. The question of quality, of whether it actually corresponds to real technological advance, seems to be irrelevant to most people in industry and high office.

The US, seeing itself as a high tech economy, is measuring inputs (R&D money) and gross outputs (patents and the money they produce) and patting itself on the back for the resulting 'growth' (innovation), despite the fact you are producing little or none.

Being completely unaware of the true state of your economy is a dangerous place to be.

Every Breath You Take (1)

darkonc (47285) | about 6 years ago | (#24493237)

A few years ago, a friend of mine came up with a wonderful description of breating which might actually pass the patent test, but I then concluded that... as well described as it was, no patent examiner was going to be stupid enough to pass the patent.

Now, however, I'm having second thoughts.

MAN! I should have thought of this! (1)

FazzMunkle (1283140) | about 6 years ago | (#24493305)

Seeing all these frivolous patents being issued I get the feeling I'm really missing out on a good thing here. Trouble is coming up with a really good mundane everyday concept to patent...

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